If you can recall all those pesky pronouns you had to learn back in grade school, this particular lesson is going to be cake.
1st-person uses the pronouns I, me, us, we, my, mine, our, ours, myself, ourselves.
- If a poem uses any 1st-person pronouns, the poem has a 1st-person speaker who may or may not be the poet.
- If the poem was written after WWII by an American and its subject is pulled from the poet’s life, it’s known as a Confessional.
- Sylvia Plath is a master among the confessional poets. Emily Dickinson — on the other hand — wrote numerous poems in the first-person where the speaker was an animal, an inanimate object, or of ambiguous gender, if not outright male. (Can I get a “Whoah!”?)
2nd-person uses the pronouns you, y’all, ye, thou, thee, your, yours, thy, thine, y’all’s.
- If a poem doesn’t use any 1st-person pronouns but does use the 2nd-person pronoun, the poem has a 2nd-person speaker.
- Avoiding the use of 1st-person pronouns can be tricky, so it’s usually a conscious choice by the poet in order to bring focus to the audience or reader and their experience of the poem.
3rd-person uses the pronouns he, she, it, they, him, her, them, his, hers, its, theirs, hisself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, theirselves, and any other gender-neutral or any nonbinary pronouns that may be devised.
- If a poem uses neither 1st- nor 2nd-person pronouns, the poem has a 3rd-person speaker.
- This can be used to create distance between the speaker of the poem and the subject, but it can also set the subject up as an item of some importance.
Take a look at the Open & Shut poems you were asked to write last time, who is the speaker in each of those poems Now, remembering also you have a choice to make of Open or Shut, write three poems; try your hand at each of the three speakers on purpose.